Joe Tiller's great games at Purdue: 1997-1999

Brian Neubert, staff
Gold and Black

Tom Campbell

Joe Tiller, Purdue's all-time winningest coach, passed away early Saturday morning at the age of 74.

His impact in West Lafayette will long live on with the scores of fond memories he and his teams created for the Boilermaker program — the momentous or improbable wins, even some of the wild losses.

Win or lose, it was always eventful for Purdue during the Tiller Days.

Here's a look at some of the most memorable games between Tiller's debut in 1997 and the conclusion of the 1999 season, this being the first of four installments.

PURDUE 28, NOTRE DAME 17 — Sept. 13, 1997

The game that started it all.

Purdue debuted under Tiller with a thud, getting handled 36-22 at Toledo — in Tiller's home city, no less — but his response thereafter is said to have loomed large in giving the Boilermakers they spirit that yielded the upset win.

It also set a tone for the mentality that would fuel the program from there on out, as Purdue continued to aggressively play-call while working to protect a fourth-quarter lead.

After Adrian Beasley pushed Purdue's lead to 21-10 with a 43-yard scoop-and-score touchdown and Notre Dame responded with a TD, Vinny Sutherland's big gain on a third-down bubble screen reception set up a game-sealing touchdown for Ed Watson to secure one of the biggest wins in school history to that point, and still today.

Tiller's post-game TV interview in which he said, "I hope we have a whole lot more of these" was particularly memorable as well.

PURDUE 22, MICHIGAN STATE 21 — Nov. 8, 1997

In keeping with what would soon become clear about Tiller-coached Purdue — anything is possible — anything was always possible against the Spartans, starting with the Boilermakers' pure theft in Ross-Ade Stadium.

Nick Saban's team lined up a 39-yard field goal with a little more than two minutes to play, up 21-10.

But Leo Perez blocked it and Rosevelt Colvin returned it 62 yards for a score.

Chris Daniels recovered the ensuing on-side kick, Billy Dicken drove the Boilermakers down the field and Watson scored to win for Purdue, but not without the added drama of missing a would-be game-winning kick at the buzzer.

You can watch that game-winning drive below.

WISCONSIN 31, PURDUE 24 — Oct. 10, 1998

Afterwards, Drew Brees said, "I can't believe we lost this game."

Purdue did lose, but even as the Boilermakers went down, they went down firing in Madison, at night, on Homecoming.

Underscoring Tiller's offensive mentality, Brees threw an NCAA single-game record 83 passes and completed an NCAA single-game record 55. He completed 18 of them to Randall Lane, another record, but given the nature of Purdue's offense until Tiller, one that wouldn't last very long.

You can watch that whole game below.

PURDUE 25, MICHIGAN STATE 24 — Nov. 14, 1998

Purdue did it again, this time in East Lansing.

Michigan State led by two touchdowns with the game winding down, but Purdue blocked a kick, Brees threw a touchdown, then Purdue got the ball back and Brees threw another touchdown. Purdue's final two scores came in the game's final 5:07, the game-winner to Isaac Jones at 1:21.

PURDUE 37, KANSAS STATE — Dec. 28, 1998

You'll recall the Wildcats were one of the elite teams in college football that year, led by dynamic quarterback Michael Bishop and a slew of other pros-in-waiting, but a series of events led to K-State falling several pegs down the bowl ladder to the Alamo Bowl, where it would be a heavy favorite against Purdue, who'd beaten Oklahoma State in San Antonio a year earlier.


Purdue let slip a 27-14 lead to close the third quarter and trailed 34-30 after a Kansas State touchdown with less than a minute-and-a-half to play.

But Brees drove the Boilermakers down the field in response and hit a lunging Isaac Jones on a 30-yard strike with 30 seconds to play for the game-winner.

You can watch the game-winning drive below.

PURDUE 28, NOTRE DAME 23 — Sept. 11, 1999

Its long-one-sided rivalry with Notre Dame compelling once again, 20th-ranked Purdue got the best of the Irish for the second time in three seasons — following a maddening loss in South Bend in '98 — but only after No. 16 Notre Dame stalled out at the Boilermaker 1-yard line as time expired.

Watch that play below.

GEORGIA 28, PURDUE 25 — Jan. 1, 2000

In an example of the show Purdue always put on, both in victory and defeat, the Boilermakers dominated the SEC's Bulldogs in one of the first college football games of this century, the 2000 Outback Bowl, jumping ahead 28-0.

But it didn't score after halftime, was victimized by the bizarre and fell in overtime in one of the most dramatic comebacks in bowl history.

You can watch that game below.


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